[Clayart] Big personalities

Kelly Savino primalmommy at mail2Ohio.com
Thu Mar 27 11:47:51 EDT 2014

I have mixed feelings about the messages that say you can't be a potter
unless you really WANT it... 

On the one hand, people like David Hendley (who was sorely missed at
NCECA and the jam) have earned their chops and paid their dues, made
sacrifices and took risks and planned well and stuck it out. 

On the other hand, an equally passionate and determined young person who
doesn't have the right combo of technical skills, ability, support and
location might well follow the same road and end up screwed. 

When I was in the writing biz, I saw again and again talented writers
who happened to be introverts, or socially awkward, or not especially
self-promotion minded... their work was never published, and is in an
attic somewhere in yellowing journals, lost to the world. 

I also saw less remarkable writing produced by extroverts, self
promoters, and business savvy types, who made a project out of learning
the business, meeting the right people, getting their work out there. 

I think the same can be true of potters. Solder and Voulkous were both
characters, bigger than life and visible, movers and shakers, wanting to
measure their work by its impact on the world around them. Arneson was
another, sense of humor and dismissal of niceties and focused on people
and reactions. As an extrovert myself, I can attest that "attention
whoring" is probably good for business... my sales are to students and
former students, scout families, homeschoolers, people I know through
community garden projects or various workshops and outreach, and my work
isn't that frickin' good... people just like to know the hands that made
their teapot sometimes. 

Before Etsy, when my teens were babies and I spent a lot of time on
mommy boards with other cloth-diapering, attachment-parenting,
breastfeeding granola types, I started selling a VERY niche markety bit
of pottery for women (don't ask) through my website, which paid for my
big kiln and studio set up, and taught me to throw light because
shipping was expensive :) It had everything to do with my connections,
and the luck of it, and the weirdness of the product. 

I had a similar run on neti pots a year ago, made them for a local yoga
studio, sold some on line, still get requests but I'm in teaching mode

Also, I have discovered that a weekend at the renfaire last summer,
selling another niche item that can be hung from a costumer's belt, was
quite profitable -- and I am looking into laying out the money up front
to get a storefront in the medieval village for weekends this late
summer, to lace up the bodice and give it a shot. I can hire some of my
former college ceramics students with a cosplay bent to spell me in the
shop, but I know from experience that nothing will sell when I am off
having lunch: sales require engaging with the passers by, being in
character, participating in the ruse, and being an expert bullshitter.
That's my angle. 

Edith Franklin used to look at the equation of people who "made it" and
clay and people who were anonymous, and lean over and whisper to me in a
conspiratorial tone, "They knew somebody". Her theory was that some
potter or teacher somewhere gave them a hand up, showed them the ropes,
introduced them around, encouraged them to apply for show or do some
self promotion. 

I think we should all BE that hand-up for the potters and youngsters
around us... some who might not have the bluster and balls to push their
way in alone. Shoot sexy backdrop photos for some college hopeful's
portfolio, provide critique and feedback. Write references, give advice,
push the talented. Maybe reach out to some underrepresented populations,
like Theaster Gates said -- sometimes the people who are hungry to work
need to get their hands on clay to see it as an option. Our urban
gardens project has had great success working with young men in inner
city neighborhoods, who are learning carpentry skills to build henhouses
and raised beds, and gaining mentorship and business skills.

The way we get new potters -- as Gates says -- is just to invite them to
the party, and see what they've got. Especially those of us who are
extroverts and bullshitters, and those like David who have the "big
picture" long term business plan. 

Love y'all. Off to the studio. 

Kelly in Ohio

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